Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 83 Days with Willie Gault

Chicago Bears, Willie Gault
Chicago Bears, Willie Gault / Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports
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With just 83 days remaining until the Chicago Bears begin the 2023 campaign, today's installment of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff will focus on the life and career of the best player to don the number 83 in franchise history, wide receiver Wille Gault.

Willie Gault's path to the Chicago Bears

A native of Griffin, Georgia, Gault attended Gault High School, where he participated in the school's football and track teams. Gault earned All-State honors on the gridiron during his junior and senior seasons as a speedy receiver and capped off his high school career with a seven-touchdown campaign as a senior. Recruited by football and track teams alike, Gault eventually chose to attend the University of Tennessee, where he participated as a dual sport athlete.

At Tennessee, Gault was a terrific hurdler and sprinter, earning two NCAA championships, six SEC championships, and 11 All-American honors while setting three school records. As decorated as his track career was, Gault's collegiate football career may have been even more impressive.

Joining the football team in 1979, Gault had more of a reserve role as a freshman and sophomore, recording just 335 yards and two touchdowns in his first two seasons combined. As a junior, Gault saw more action and targets, hauling in 479 yards and four touchdowns on 22 receptions. Gault also enjoyed a strong season as a returner, racking up nearly 1,000 total return yards and a punt return touchdown.

As a senior, Gault enjoyed his best collegiate season to the tune of 668 receiving yards, four offensive touchdowns, nearly 700 return yards, and a kickoff return touchdown. Gault finished his Tennessee career with over 4,000 all-purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns. Widely respected as one of the most explosive and dangerous ball carriers of his era, Gault set 12 school records, half of which were also SEC records, and was selected as an All-American during his senior season.